This Sunday the service used the music of Patty Griffin to tell stories of a God who is present in the messiness of life. What does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to say to those with their backs against the wall? The scriptures tell us the answer: God is there with her back against the wall, right beside them, and right beside us.
RMC has been part of an interfaith group that spends time at the NC women’s prison, celebrating birthdays and sharing times of worship.
Prisons are created to get people out of the way. They did in the day of Paul and Silas, and they do so today. As Willy Jennings has said, prisons are never about criminals; they’re about societies. They’re a tool for control and containment.
To believe in Jesus is to be set free, just as the jailer was from the jail and the prisoner from the prison.
While the passage is specifically about whether male Gentiles who followed the Way of Jesus needed to be circumcised, Melissa explains this really speaks to the broader decision-making process within the early church. We think we have difficulty coming to a consensus as a church; this was a much more volatile issue!
Note: there was some occasional static during parts of the recording. A few brief sections where it was particularly bad were removed as a result, while some was left in. Our apologies.
Melissa’s retelling of the story of Saul on the road to Damascus brings a fresh perspective. Experiencing Jesus changes us. God is no longer a set of propositions, no longer a belief system that needs to be defended by logic. Instead, faith is seen in how our life is lived.
Melissa tells us there were two very different realities that Sunday morning, three days after Jesus had been crucified. The contrast between the Jewish women and the Roman soldiers at the grave couldn’t have been greater.
The Easter story is a story of grace. It’s a reordering of life. We’re encouraged to let ourselves be loved by God and to love God in return.
It’s Palm Sunday. The day we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the King of Peace. But Jerusalem is a powder keg at Passover, and Jesus tosses in a match. It’s not unlike the unrest during the Civil Rights movement, when activists carried out a series of non-violent direct actions, pushing against the norms and upsetting those in power. The gospel of Jesus Christ will not make you nice or orderly; it will make you a very poor citizen to the way things have always been. Especially during this Holy Week, what are you willing to be left undone, to make space for resurrection?
Johnny Cash plays heavily in Melissa’s sermon today. In fact, the service included listening to one of his songs that talks about today’s parable of God’s judgment, separating the sheep from the goats.
When I hear Johnny saying God’s going to cut you down, or Jesus preaching the story that might make our eyes a little bit wider, I hear a warning, a red flashing siren from people who know how bad life can be when you are drowning in self-deception, in your ignorance of your neighbor’s suffering, or our desire to look out for ourselves even if it means that you run other people down.
And to be forgiven for hurting people we love? That’s where eternal life starts. To let that forgiveness send you out to discover people who are lost and alone. That is the very center of God’s reign.
Melissa places the parable of the bridesmaids waiting for the groom at the wedding in the larger context of parables around it. All of you who call yourselves followers of Jesus, now is the time! Stop getting distracted. Focus on what we are called to do. We need to find Jesus in the dispossessed, the most vulnerable among us because the reign of God is not in the future. It’s here and now.
A farmer hires workers throughout the day. Some work all day others just short time but the farmer pays all of them the same wages. This may not be fair but it is right. God does not bless people according to title, power, salary or any measure, God’s grace is freely given to everyone. This is good news or as Melissa put it “the full employment at a living wage parable”.
Melissa also address the erroneous use of this parable to raise Christians above others. Dividing people and causing harm.
During Lent, RMC is focusing on some of Jesus’ parables. This first Sunday of Lent Melissa spoke from Matthew 18:21-35, the difficult parable of the slave who owed a great sum of money.
Melissa hearkened back to her memories of the Westminster Catechism to remind us what our chief purpose is: To glorify God and delight in God forever. (A slight paraphrase.) “I pray wasted time for each of you this week.” Matthew 16:24-17:8
As Melissa recounts the story of Jesus feeding of the 5,000, she ponders what we have to offer. Just five loaves and two fishes. God can take the little and make it much. Matthew 14:13-33
Melissa preaches from Matthew 6:7-21.
Melissa recounts the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It might be viewed as a test to see if Jesus is really who he claims to be. Jesus believes he is God’s beloved. We might not be able to pass the tests Jesus was faced with, but we also are God’s beloved. Matthew 4:1-17